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Sunday 14 July 2024


Ayaan Hirsi Believes Because It’s Absurd

6 June, 2024
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Photo source: Elizabetta Villa/Getty Images

There is no squabbling so violent as that between people who accepted an idea yesterday and those who will accept the same idea tomorrow.” — Christopher Morley

In a recent conversation with renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, self-proclaimed “brand new Christian,” took the stage to delve deeper into her newfound faith following her provocative November 2023 article.

Emphatically declaring herself a “literal” believer, Ayaan attempted to articulate her reasons for embracing Christianity, citing personal comfort as a driving force. Dawkins, visibly taken aback, challenged Ayaan’s assertion, reminding her that true religious conviction requires more than mere solace.

Upon reading Ayaan’s Unherd piece and witnessing her dialogue with Dawkins, one cannot help but ponder the enigmatic nature of her beliefs. Is Ayaan’s faith rooted in the paradoxical notion that one must embrace the absurd in order to truly believe? (As the ancient Latin dictum states, "Credo quia absurdum — I believe because it's absurd!") In the midst of this intellectual and spiritual debate, Ayaan’s journey towards Christianity remains shrouded in mystery, leaving us to ruminate on the profound complexities of faith and reason.

Starting with the beginning, let’s delve into the story of Ayaan and uncover the reasons behind her departure from Islam. In her gripping autobiography, Infidel: My Life, Ayaan recounts the harrowing experience of undergoing genital mutilation, a practice that plagues a staggering 99.2% of females between 15-49 years of age in her society, according to a recent survey by the Somali government. Faced with the prospect of an arranged marriage, Ayaan made a daring escape to the Netherlands in search of freedom.

In her Unherd article, she confesses that it was the “infiltration” of Muslim Brotherhood into her rather stable neighbourhood in Nairobi in the mid-1980s, together with her experience in Saudi Arabia while still a teenager where she saw first-hand the rate of terror and religious bigotry that women and girls undergo in a typical Islamic religious society, that led her to rethink the very essence of Islam before she eventually left it all behind.

Ayaan's journey to “de-Islamization” was thus an act of female heroism, a bold stand against the sexism and misogyny that pervaded her environment. By breaking free from the shackles of her society and its oppressive dogmas, Ayaan found solace and empowerment. Her story is a testament to the resilience and courage of women who refuse to be silenced.

That is a moving story, one cannot deny. However, it lacks the rational and balanced thinking necessary for questioning faith or taking a critical stance against mainstream beliefs. Why is this the case? Let's consider Christianity (and other organized, patriarchal religions) and how they view women. In Christianity, women are often seen as mere "property." “The Greek philosophical tradition, which shaped early Christian views on this, believed that women lacked autonomous reason and were therefore inherently inferior and dependent on men,” as Rosemary Radford Ruether showed. The Bible (Deuteronomy 22:28–29) even dictates the amount of money a man must pay for raping another man’s daughter. Furthermore, the perpetrator is then required to marry his victim, and they are bound together for life. To mention but a few.

Let’s dive back into Ayaan’s wild justifications for why she’s suddenly decided to hop on the Christian bandwagon. According to her November piece, she made the switch to Christianity partly to take on China, Russia, and Iran, all while supposedly upholding “the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition.” In the recent New York debate with Dawkins, she doubled down on this Huntingtonian rhetoric, claiming she chose Christianity as a shield against what she perceives as a looming existential and moral threat from Islam and other “mind viruses” in Western civilization.

Now, let’s take a moment to quote the captivating words of the Canadian author Ali A. Rizvi, who had a good chuckle at Ayaan’s sudden conversion (or should we say convulsion). He brilliantly pointed out that Ayaan’s political switch to Christianity is akin to Andrew Tate's leap into Islam, or how Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal ditched their Indian roots and changed their names to fit in with the Republican Party in the United States. The lengths some people will go to for a little political clout!

Why is her conversion considered political? (Richard Dawkins himself believes that his friend is a “political Christian.”) The reason for this lies in the fundamental nature of religions – one cannot claim to be a true believer while selectively choosing which aspects to follow. In the recent televised debate, Ayaan Hirsi consistently avoids providing direct answers when faced with intellectual challenges. She often resorts to vague statements like “we can agree to disagree,” while subtly promoting ideas that are difficult to ingest let alone digest.

Ayaan even leans towards a crude form of fideism, suggesting that while she values fact-based, scientifically sound truths, faith should be exempt from scrutiny and given the benefit of the doubt. So why all the controversy? we may ask her. Because, she seems to justify, we must save the West from the spectre and The Lernaean Hydra that is haunting its young, clueless generations (i.e. the perceived threat of Islam) that is seeking to displace and replace “us.” This notion of “us versus them,” twisted as it is, is not accidental, but rather a reflection of the intrapsychic conflict described by Frantz Fanon, where individuals strive to conform and wear a dominant cultural mask.

Imagine denouncing and condemning what Islamists are doing in the name of religion while at the same time glorifying and being apologetic for what Israeli Zionists are doing in the name of “the memory of Amalek!”

Ayaan appears to be against the so-called “woke” culture and personal liberty, yet she conveniently uses the “woke” defence card to justify her shift to simply being a matter of “personal choice.” However, unlike religious zealots, I understand that individuals have the inalienable right to (dis)believe as they see fit, and this choice should be respected and even protected within their personal realm.

Nevertheless, when individuals attempt to bring their beliefs into the public sphere, it inevitably sparks interest and discussion, as these once-private matters are now open for scrutiny. This is when the absurdity of their beliefs may be exposed and challenged. The line between personal belief and public action is a delicate one, and once crossed, the scrutiny and falsification of these beliefs begins in earnest.

The most fascinating point Ayaan made in both her article and talk is that she has just started delving into the “Holy” scripts of Christianity, specifically the Bible. She humbly admits, “I still have a great deal to learn about Christianity.” It’s truly riveting to think about what she will come up with (she even promised to pen down a book about her psychedelic-like experience with Jesus) once she actually reads the book. I can hardly contain my excitement to see if, when she learns “enough” about it, the absurdity will reach an unbearable threshold. As the wise Somali scholar Said S. Samatar once quipped about his journey between Islam and Christianity, this is just the typical transition from one book to another.

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